Monday, 21 July 2014

I know that my Redeemer liveth

The first time I ever heard "Messiah" the soprano was Isobel Baillie. I had no idea who she was. If I am right in my reckoning and I was 11 or 12 then she was in her early 70s.
Let me tell you that if I can sing one quarter as well as that lady could sing when I am 70 then I will be pretty pleased.
Tonight another soprano, Sarah Nagy, (aka  Clark) will sing "I know that my Redeemer liveth!"
Different emotions swell up in me as I think of both of these events. As I listened to my daughter sing what I had first heard Dame Isobel sing (perhaps 1960) with such beauty grace and grandeur...I realised the truth of the words.
And indeed Handel's genius to be able to provide a melody which takes you into heaven.
I only pray as I administer Communion for the first time in my new parish Church tonight, that I will not be so totally overcome as to not  reiterate Job 19:25...I know that my Redeemer liveth!

And by the way ...the tiny little woman I saw aged 72...was every bit as beautiful as this picture when she was 27!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Transition


Moving is pretty awful. Whilst full of expectation, challenge and delight...there is so much stuff that needs to be resolved.
We have moved quite well, and still coping with everything else.
It is part of the irony of the modern age that 'no internet'  is one of our biggest worries. It puts a brick wall against certain decisions.

But I guess using the B Naylor maxim....mostly everything will be resolved in 6 weeks.
I hope so.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

A Van Gogh Moment

A Van Gogh Moment













An unexpected tall visitor
appeared in the back yard today
growing between the felled blue gum trunk
and the faded red, straggly geraniums.
I spied her elegance from the house,
but she shyly turned her face away, sunwards.

When I drew close,
faced up to her with gentle greetings,
saw the radiant ring of yellow petals
fringing her fine black face,
I understood why Van Gogh
first painted sunflowers
for sheer joy in Arles in 1888.


Sue Cook
(a birthday present from my friend)

Monday, 16 June 2014

Travels

The last two decades have been a great time of travel for me and mine.
We had a number of lovely holidays, principally at our beach house at Port Elliot.
WE began to experience what was called the "Flah" effect.
This involved driving from Adelaide about 75 kms. You then saw the Southern Ocean, or the delta of the Murray River....and started to travel downhill towards Victor Harbor and Port Elliot.
You could feel yourself go "Flah!"  This was not the exhalation of air but the release of anxiety.   "I have left behind me my mediocre life, and can have a few hours off"
In the first few months this didn't work. I used to get more and more anxious the closer I approached Port Elliot.
I came to understand that it was not the destination that was the problem, but the return. I deeply resented that as I drew closer to PE   it also meant I was going to have to come back!
How weird was that!
Gradually I became used to the fact that it was good to go away....and (possibly) good to go back.
I really loved long Januaries at Port Elliot with whoever, but particularly my children and my parents in law!
We had a lot of holidays in Bali. Some more bizarre than others.
How fortunate are Australians to live so close to this golden isle of Indonesia!
We really liked the exotica, the tropicalia, and just the general fun of Bali.
Some of us even thought shopping was quite a lot of  fun. Not me! but some of us.

Sue and I went to Europe in 2007. It was indeed a final fling. We went to Rome: the Trevi Fountain, the Coliseo, the Vatican Museum ...and to Paris; the Rodin Museum, the Picasso Collection, the Musee d'Orsay....and most most of all the wonderful Monets at L'Orangerie.
We sat on the steps of Sacre Coeur at night time and went to Mass at 10 p.m. at night!
Brecon Cathedral
We ate our way through the boulangerie on the Rue de St Anne, and sailed up and down the Seine.
Sue panicked at the top of the Eiffel Tower, but loved Euro disney.
We caught the train from Paris to Londres and saw some wonderful shows...Wicked, The Drowsy Chaperone, Americans in Paris, .... the Portrait Gallery, the Crown Jewels and so much more.
We accidentally came across the Brecon Beacons and the wonderful St David's cathedral in Brecon. A town apparently on the road to nowhere.
The Church has been there for a thousand years or more.
An exquisite monument. I suspect neglected by most of the historophiles

Politics went crazy

As I think back on the 18 years of politics, I actually once blogged that Tony Abbott was ok (here) !!
Sorry, sorry, sorry...not a word that Liberals are inclined to embrace (all sorts of observations here about what it means to be sorry)


I actually think he is no longer OK. He is discovering that the electorate does not like his brand of absolutist politics, that the rich should get richer while the poor get poorer is not anything like the Australian 'fair-go'

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Struggles of the Church

I am pleased to subscribe to the Dean/Provost of Glasgow's blog.

He talks here of how badly the Episcopal Church in Scotland is dealing with the issue of same-sex relationships
I make my reply:
‘Twas ever so!
I am a priest of the Australian Anglican Church, in the relatively conservative (what used to be ) Anglo-Catholic Diocese of Adelaide.
I blogged a bit about some “safe space” conversations our Diocesan Synod held a couple of years ago (http://stephenclarks.blogspot.com.au/search?q=safe+space). It was one of the most mishandled experiences I have ever had.
I have never seen the conservative evangelicals come out in such force.
One session after a traditional evangelical position was put, and then a liberal catholic place enunciated, was supposed to be a “pastoral response” from a psychologist priest who could not help but state his view that homosexual practice was unbiblical. [This rather limited his capacity to be able to pastorally respond!]
To then witness the Precentor of the Cathedral rip into him was a wonder to behold. How can a loving Church condemn people to hell so easily? And so ignore the real injustices of our society…poverty, refugees, homelessness, racial prejudice…….to name but a view of the sinister things that permeate Australian society.
My own personal victory came from the sense that at least one of the curates of the Diocesan evangelical mega-parish seemed to twig that poverty was more serious ….much more serious…than who has sex with whom!
I was left feeling that those of us who have a catholic view that means that God loves everybody….even if we are not conservative, straight, gay, black or white…you name it; are fighting an uphill battle against a legalistic Protestantism that is more interested in keeping the middle class intact.
WWJD…..I am totally convinced that J would not be at middle class preach Fest in the Adelaide Hills!
I personally think the Australian Church is sh&t scared of debating homosexuality. Its bishops have become Laodiceans (Rev 3:14-15).
My great sadness after these “safe space” discussions was that someone said to me of a person who had been in a small (20+!!!!) discussion group who clearly identified herself as a gay woman….”Oh we haven’t seen her in Church for 3 or 4 weeks”
God help the Church. Because the Church can’t help itself

Saturday, 14 June 2014

I begin to reflect

As I reflect on my ministry
I came to this parish at a time when the Church was ‘different’. Within a few years we had been shaken to our bootstraps by scandals that could never have been  imagined.
The confidence in the Church was deeply shaken. 
I can admit , now , that I found this difficult. I came as a trusted community worker. I became a person whose integrity was completely and utterly challenged.
We were betrayed by a whole range of people who had used their positions of trust and respect to abuse other persons, mentally, physically and spiritually.
Personally I recognise that I went from being a person held in high regard  to one who who was automatically distrusted.
In a few short years we went from the church being an institution where people could be safe to one where people were immediately suspicious.
One of the consequences of this was that numbers dropped quite dramatically.
In the mid 90s I would have expected  that we might have had 200-250 worshippers each week.
It is now remarkable if we have half that number.
Nevertheless, I am still thankful that many people have done more than just reject the church’s ministry. They have recognised that the majority of Christian people continue to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with their God.
The few, and I think it is ‘a few’ who have betrayed the trust that should have been expected of them, have seriously weakened the Church.
It is probably a good...but it is certainly a painful , thing.
I want to urge any who still are harbouring hurts to come forward and invite the processes to work for their benefit. I pray that I may not have been one who has precipitated any abuse.
For the rest of us, it is good to have had our egos deflated, and our self-importance crushed.

Jesus identifies not with the abuser, but with the abused.  Not with the strong but with the weak. Not with the bully but with the victimised

New title for a new era

I guess most readers will know that I am about to move but I will continue to use this blog (stephenclarks.blogspot.com) even though I have been a bit remiss of late.
It is however my intention to blog in the last couple of weeks about two things:

  1. The glory of moving !
  2. The 18 years I have spent in this parish

 THE SECOND BLOG
I do however have another more systematic blog on which I put my weekly musings in homiletic form
This is called Coromandel Preachings...(here  http://coromandelpreachings.blogspot.com.au/  ) obviously this isn't going to be an appropriate title when I leave this parish.
And there are only three Sunday morning sermons left to go, and one Evensong .  I am calling these the three last things...plus one!
Anyway  I am looking for suggestions for a new title as I move to St Mary Magdalenes.  I will migrate the content to my new blog, but I guess the new priest might like to take over coromandel preachings...or not.  Either is fine

Any suggestions for a title for my new homiletic blog? (email me  frstephenclark@gmail.com)

BYE the BYE
This latter blog was also available from time to time in hard copy.
In a moment of naughtiness this hard copy was titled tongue in cheek The Strumpet....I did this mainly to see if anyone even read it and would comment. It took 6 weeks before someone asked me if I knew what "strumpet" meant!
One of my churchwardens jumped to my defence and said she thought it was short for Stephen's Trumpet!
So it became the 'sTrumpet.
I will still continue to produce it in that format, if you want hard copy of it in these last weeks also email me (frstephenclark@gmail.com)

Indeed if you want to continue receiving after I leave the parish then that's fine too

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

One of the things

It's quite a good quotation isn't it?
I am at a life point  when things are changing a lot.
Leaving a parish after 18 years...yikes I never imagined it would be so
And going to the leading Anglo Catholic Parish in Adelaide.
Many years ago I realised that the 'jealous God' (rightly) takes away everything that is not pure, and undefiled.
I remember thinking......your are even going to take away Anglo Catholicism. And  I was sad.
What I immediately realised was that, as much as I love being an Anglo Catholic, ...I actually need to love God and not Anglo Catholicism.
I don't think we always get the fact that the way we love God...is not the same thing as loving God.
We are sometimes Catholics, sometimes Protestants, Fundamentalist and Ritualists
But as for me...and mine...I am the Lord's
I am just glad that God has given me back the  way I like, so that I may love God..He/She..more.
Give me smoke
Give me bells
Give me mad people
and....above all give me the Holy Eucharist. God with us today and forever.
But as for me, and mine..........I am the Lord's!


Monday, 2 June 2014

Self knowledge


I rather think that as I get older I am understanding myself better. (I may of course be mistaken)
It is one of my 'theories' that not everyone who simply grows old gets wiser. I hope I will get wiser as I get older!
In the last few months I have realised that one of the principal dysfunctional mechanisms of my life has been that I build a wall and repel  'The enemy'. 
My strategy? Hide behind the wall and tell them to get knicked!
This is an interesting strategy, but it is not without casualty. Not least me. 
I have been so good at building repelling walls that most people don't even try to attack! It's just too hard
And so I feel...well I am pretty alone....people won't approach me because the wall is too hard to breach. 
In the last two days I had disagreements with two folk.....so what did I do?
Even though I realised it was wrong...I got behind the wall.
I withdrew my communication, I stopped even texting.....what a dick! (excusez moi!)
I want to do better.
Shouldn't we all do better?

As I write this I am listening to "Carousel".
I think it is THE great R& H musical..."Walk on walk on with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone"
Maybe I am just an incurable romantic ..as they say...but I suspect there is more to
it



PPPPPS if you don't listen to Spotify yet then maybe now is a  time to try

Saturday, 31 May 2014

UnAmerican & unAustralian

Today is the anniversary of the day Arthur Miller was convicted of "contempt" of Congress for refusing to 'name names' of supposed Communists
A story from the BBC is here
He was brought (as were many others) before a select Committee called the House unAmerican Activities Committee  (HUAC)because, like many others on both sides of the Atlantic, and indeed in Australia he came to the conclusion that the only way to prevent the re-emergence of Fascism and to defeat social inequality was through Communism. History  proved them wrong in many (but not all) ways.
But the McCarthy witchhunts, so devastatingly allegorised in Miller's play "The Crucible", have passed into perpetuity as one of the least edifying periods of American history. Superceded only in Anglo-Centric societies by the history of slavery and racial discrimination in both the United Kingdom, the Us and Australia
One of the things that I find interesting is the use of the term unAmerican, because we live in a country where the term unAustralian is bandied around.
It is the sort of term that is used when ever people are losing their argument. You then claim that your opponent is unAustralian!
There can be no rational response to this since there is no clarity about what being "Australian" means either.
Most of those who use such terminology would resile from the idea that "being Australian" means that in the first you place you need to be indigenous!
What is perhaps interesting about the BBC article is that HUAC was not formerly disbanded until 1975!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Some interesting comments

4 English Bishops...now retired speak strongly about the denial of the Gospel of peace and love.
They do it in an Anglican way. But their words are measured, strong and powerful.
In our superficial world we don't often get deep thinking.
But it is worth listening to these Bishops.
As unfashionable as Bishops are to listen to.

http://www.stpauls.co.uk/News-Press/Latest-News/What-I-want-to-say-now-retired-bishops-speak-out
http://www.stpauls.co.uk/News-Press/Latest-News/What-I-want-to-say-now-retired-bishops-speak-out
If you can't cope with the dryness of Anglicans then listen to the Holy Father. He seems to have the common touch! Thanks be to God

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Milestone, great daughter...where is life going?

Yesterday, my eldest child was 30.
Had a lovely time with her at breakfast... that's what we do.  
It is often difficult to be present to other people. Particularly those close to you. We should always remember this...the important ones are the ones we have to struggle hardest with.
I did have a list of 'conversation starters'....and we found them vaguely engaging.
"What was your earliest memory?",
"Do you remember Kindy" [
I remember how hard she actually found it... the protected child who had never had to encounter anyone else...]
Yesterday it seemed I was telling her a story she had no idea of but I have always been aware about how much pain parents inflict on their children as we urge them to stand on their feet [she was 4 at Kindy]
"How was school?"  .. I am nothing if not unimaginative!... She told me she found school  difficult I have lived under the misconception that school was sort of OK. Particularly the first couple of years.
She had great teachers. But I got rid of the delusion that the choices we made about education were good probably 15 years ago. All schools are flawed.
She did quite well. School did less well!
It was good to move her to her last school. She gained there a reputation for being assertive, perhaps even offensive (paternal genes!). She is VERY intelligent, in a way that modern society doesn't always appreciate. At her graduation there was huge titter that went across her peers when it was said that she had a reputation for speaking up. [My heart swelled!]
Let me tell you!  She will  never conform!. And I say...Hallelujah!
I remember her birthday...the actual day of her birth.
I had two profound thoughts....My life will never be the same again.  This was overwhelming, spiritual and seminal.
But more importantly, in that first week as I held her, and could just spend hours looking at her. I remember thinking.... this is the most beautiful person I have ever seen. 
She has two rivals, but it still stands.!!

Friday, 9 May 2014

I have oft times blogged

I just think that everyone should spend at least 30 mins every day listening to ABC FM.
But I know that this is torture for some.
But if you are sceptical then listen to the wonderful Margaret Throsby at midday. What a magnificent interview this week with Arvi Arvital ( I will not be so precocious as to write this in Ivrit).
Margaret brings out the depth of her interviewees. And as for this young man....what a wonderful gift to the world. To hear him talk with such enchantment about his new young son, and how music might connect us as human beings. This is truly wonderful

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A Christian country

There is a bit of debate going on in the UK at the moment about whether or not it is a "Christian Country"
I have long said to folk in my parish that Australia is not a Christian country, and may never have been so.
I actually wonder if it is healthy for countries to be one religion; and I think there is probably much to be said for saying that we are pluralistic. That we want to be pluralistic, poly-religious. Tolerant and open to diversity.
I know that many don't feel comfortable with this, and I also want people who feel threatened by pluralism to not feel disenfranchised (this does not mean that their biases should be allowed to prevail in place of acceptance of diversity)
In Australia I still find I get prickly when people tell me I belong to the C of E!  (It has not been formally such since the 70s)
It is good not to see ourselves in the light of another nation...England...but it is good to recognise to recognise our heritage ...Anglican.
I spent part of last year in Hawaii as a locum.....when asked last week by the Mothers' Union.."What was the difference?"
I was a bit glib...but could confidently say "Nothing at all!"
Given the fact that 1/3 of the congregation were Filipinos it is an interesting reflection.
Don't think we should overstate it, but being Anglican is a great thing. But there is much about it that needs a good kick up the backside too!

Personally I have always felt ( who gave me this gift ?) that what we need is great big melting pot
(here)
Take a pinch of white man Wrap him up in black skinAdd a touch of blue blood And a little bitty bit of red Indian boyCurly Latin kinkiesMixed with yellow Chinkees, yeahYou know you lump it all togetherAnd you got a recipe for a get along sceneOh what a beautiful dreamIf it could only come true, you know, you know

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Getting my mind around it


Blogging is a bizarre sport (not as bizarre as some!), but certainly lacking in tact, subtlety and longevity..I have tried to make it work, and in fact found it quite hard. It seems to have been superseded by Twitter, which is even more bizarre; because while  blogging seems to seeks its own frame of reference Twitter is more demanding. Frame of reference and  only 140 characters (I have already written 315 characters ...whoops 420 !) just making these observations.
I used to be quiet disciplined about it, I would check the news in the morning and blog. Often I would tie it in with what was streaming...not a word they would have used...with the Advertiser ...the local paper ( but you will note that the link has side tracked the 'local paper' to what is called Adelaide Now)  As I walk Betsey early in the morning I notice that at the most 1 in 20 houses receive a hard copy of the Advertiser...20 years ago, even 10, every other house would have had a copy on the breakfast table. I doubt that most bother to check "Adelaide Now!" which seems to be neither Adelaide nor now.



Friday, 25 April 2014

An absolute legend

There is much to be said ion such a national day as this.
I am interested about the current rhetoric of ANZAC Day.
We are now openly talking about the 'legend'...and recognising that legend is about conveying a different truth from historical detail .
Readers of Scriptures should have no problem with this idea.
People are sufficiently aware that Gallipoli was not all it was cracked up to be, and as you look at the pristine beaches of ANZAC Cove it is clear that this was not what the soldier of 1915 encountered. There are many things to say: in this week of Royal enthusiasm we should not forget that it was blind loyalty to another legend, The British Empire, that annihilated the young men of many Australian country towns. Boys enthused, possibly by the notion of masculine camaraderie; who soon found out that: Turkey, the western Front; and in the next war: North Africa, Malaya, Singapore, Normandy and then Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, the Solomons, Iraq, East Timor (How on earth did we not get drawn into the Falklands?)......war is fine until you discover that people die, and that one of those people might be you, or the boy next to you.[ am not, of course, being sexist...many women have borne the brunt of war...not particularly or necessarily as service personnel ...and therefore have often been disregarded as collateral damage. As have children.  And there are now women serving in theatres of war.]
Even the army seems to be questioning whether or not ANZAC Day has become too commercial.
In my local community a thousand or so people gathered at the busy Blackwood intersection to note that we have not forgotten and should not forget.
But it is about the need for a sense of  community as much as anything.
Legend is about truth. Community truth. Not necessarily about what we (loosely) call fact.
That young men die at the behest of the old. That 'the best laid plans ...have some times gone awry'
I do not think we should step away from ANZAC Day. Rather the contrary. But we should vigorously explore the truth. Allow the legend to speak.
And critique it with history. Lest we forget

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Great Christians

Brian Harradine has died.
As a Christian I have always felt we should 'flex our muscle'...that is we should not just feel that Christianity requires us to be 'nice'. But that the principles we hold dear should be brought to bear in the national debate. It has not always been possible

Brian Harradine certainly sought to do so. Not everyone, not every Christian, or even Catholic, would agree with all his stands on the wide range of issues but here Frank Brennan talks about him in a rather balanced sort way (listen to Frank here)

Butting in!

Holy Week Day 1 and 2 completed. Am trying to give myself to it, but life's changes are butting something wicked.
That too is a Holy Week message

Monday, 14 April 2014

Journeys

I started watching Game of Thrones last week.
What an epic journey that is. Some will hate it and others obviously love it. I haven't quite made up my mind! But I think I'm being sucked in
Many of you will already know that I announced yesterday that I am to become the Parish Priest of St Mary Magdalene's, Adelaide in a couple of months (here)
That too will be an epic journey. Having been at Coromandel Valley for  over 18 years it was strange to say yesterday
" This will be the last Palm Sunday and Holy Week I will be here !" More than half of the Easters I have spent as a priest have been in this parish.
They are likely to be more exotic in the next few years!
So the journey of Holy Week, itself important in my life, will be compounded as I think (occasionally this week and then furiously next)  about the way I extract myself and two of my children from the house. AAgh!.
Will require a certain ruthlessness.  Makes G o Th look mild by comparison!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The bothersome world of same sex parents

I wonder if the world is bothering us at the moment.
I know two men who are in a committed relationship to each other. They have decided that they could become parents. I have mixed feelings about this.
My ‘mixed feelings’ are that:
  • this is not how it happens, these two men would both appear to be moral and responsible. They happen to be what today we call ‘gay’! (I don’t really like the terminology, it is casual and inaccurate) but two men can’t have a child in their own right.

On the other hand, and particularly being a parent myself I also think:
  • shouldn’t any mature adult be allowed to experience the privilege of parenthood

These two guys would seem to be potentially responsible parents holding down well paying jobs, and indeed one would even suggest they are ‘socially conservative’ (more so than me!).  They are well-educated and can provide well for their children (they plan to adopt two babies)
I am still of two minds 

BUT I also think this bothersome world does not put everything in my control (thank goodness!)
Others will make decisions which don’t necessarily conform to the narrowness of my world view...again “Thank goodness!”
SO my response is to do what I can to support these two people in their desire to be parents.
When it all boils down to it no one, not even a royal family, can provide a perfect environment into which a child might be born.  We do what we can with what we have got. And that is part of the mystery and the grace that God has committed to the human race.

No human situation is perfect. Let’s do what we can, I suggest, to support all those who find themselves in the position...however they get there....to enjoy the privilege of parenthood!